Nobody knows for certain why the governing body of sports cycling decided to ban recumbents from races, but in the summer of 1933, an un-faired, fully recumbent broke the 5, 20, 30, 40, and 50-kilometre records as well as the hour and half-hour records. Less than a year later, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) set up a committee to define and enforce a new definition of the bicycle that effectively banned recumbents from all future events.
Of course, recumbents continued (and continue) to be built and ridden, but who knows what the average bike in the street might look like today had the UCI not taken fright.
Grant Sinclair, nephew of the late serial inventor Sir Clive Sinclair, may have the answer in the shape of his futuristic IRIS eTrike® which is being prepared for mass production.
The Iris eTrike is an ultralight streamlined electric-assist vehicle with a cruising speed of 25 mph.
Efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly personal transport
Grant Sinclair has addressed many of the criticisms levelled at his uncle’s design. A chest-height profile, LED headlamps, indicators and brake lights aid visibility of the Iris eTrike on the road, and bodywork made from expanded polypropylene offers protection in the event of a crash.
The fully-enclosed Iris eTrike features a canopy made from aviation-grade acrylic and a handful of creature comforts including a contoured seat, universal smartphone dock and rear view camera. The Iris can be pre-ordered now via grantsinclair.com
Sinclair C5 re-born
If you’re old enough to remember the Sinclair C5, you’ll know the battery-powered recumbent e-trike became a byword for disaster. Like so many doomed projects across the ages, the C5 was ahead of its time – it assumed there was a market for a quiet and environmentally friendly vehicle that posed no threat to other cyclists and pedestrians.
The three-wheeler’s handling characteristics were praised by reviewers. The Guardian described it as ‘very easy to master once you have become familiar with the under-thigh handlebar steering and the semi-recumbent driving position with feet on bicycle-type pedals‘, while the Daily Express wrote that the C5 was ‘stable, comfortable and easy to handle‘.
However, motoring organisations and the health and safety lobby sealed the C5’s fate. The chairman of the British Safety Council (BSC) told the press: “I am shattered that within a few days 14-year-old children will be allowed to drive on the road in this Doodle Bug without a licence…without insurance and without any form of training.”
The British reaction to this plucky attempt to revolutionise personal transport was to rubbish its innovation and then profit on its failure. Arriving as it did at the height of Thatcherism, speculators were quick to buy up the bankrupt stock of C5s and then re-sell them to collectors at a 1,000 per cent mark-up.
Although there remains significant resistance to the idea of rational transport , the world is a different place in 2023. Grant Sinclair has been contacted by established automotive and bike distributors from all over the world, has a manufacturing offer from Sony and has designed a dedicated 150 sq/m IRIS showroom for a Norwegian distributor (where all four wheel road vehicles are due to be heavily taxed).
The ethical choice
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.